Knifight: In the Fire

About ten days ago, a little present made its way into my Dropbox account. Knifight were releasing a new EP called In the Fire and wanted to share it with me. We have covered Knifight extensively here on OVRLD, and the prospect of more material from them was enticing. Since 2010, they’ve released one very good EP (The End is Knifight) and one pretty good EP (Now We’re Invisible). Between the two, they have at least three amazing songs – “Girls Don’t Get Crushes,” “Never Coming Home” and “Eva.” And maybe it’s the high expectations that come with a good back catalogue, but In the Fire feels a bit uneven, like the group is in the midst of trying new things that they haven’t quite settled on yet.

This is not to say that it’s bad. It’s not. If you like what Knifight have released before, you will probably still enjoy this. Of the three proper songs on the EP, “Black Dagger” is the most vintage Knifight track. It’s dark, synth-heavy and prominently features John Gable’s rich baritone. Gable bellows and cracks over the kind of pulsing beat that demands at least head-bobbing and foot-tapping, if not all out dancing. While it doesn’t mine new territory for Knifight, “Black Dagger” is a great addition to the classic Knifight catalogue.

The other two tracks are where things get interesting. On “My Work,” I think the experimentation works, and on “Dark Voices,” I think it falls short. “Dark Voices” digs deeper into the 80s gothic dark wave, but finds the gang incorporating some new elements for them. Gable has a spoken word/rap breakdown in the middle (which I think rarely works, no matter who’s doing it), and there are some sound effects used that are straight out of a Frankie Goes to Hollywood song. It sounds like a heavier version of early-80s Cure songs, which may appeal to some, but to me sounds dated. “My Work,” on the other hand is a frantic, wonderful mess. Knifight abandon the steady pulse of much of their work for a syncopated beat that can barely contain itself. The various instruments never quite coalesce into a unified whole (the competing guitar and synth leads often sound like they’re playing different songs), but the cacophony is alluring. At the 1:46 mark, there’s an abrupt shift into 80s-ballad territory with some rich seventh chords that lasts only a few seconds before launching back into the main chorus. It could be a messy Destroyer B-side, and is utterly compelling.

There is a bonus track of atonal feedback and garbled spoken word samples that Knifight throw in at the end of the record. At the end of The End is Knifight, the song “6” was a demented, throwaway stomp. The untitled bonus track here has the same feel of just screwing around in the studio, but with a weirder, darker, avant garde approach. It, along with the rest of In the Fire, suggest a band that has their basic sound down now, and is playing around with the best direction to go next. As with any transitional record, some parts are going to work and some are not, but it’s fascinating to be a part of the journey.

– Carter